Sunday, May 1, 2011

Once More Unto the Breach

This will be the last post before election results begin to bombard us, so let's take some time to reflect and look back.

Tomorrow, Canadians will get to cast their ballots and make a choice over what party they trust to lead Canada for the next few years. It has been a hard fought campaign, with a few surprises along the way, and it seems as though Canada is about to undergo a seismic shift in our political landscape.

Yet, despite polling indications and the confessions of some party insiders, some people refuse to admit the winds of change that are sweeping across Canada. Some pollsters continue to suggest that a Harper Majority is still in play; that vote splitting between the Liberals and the NDP could create this scenario.

At the same time, though, they seem to forget that vote splitting suggests that the Liberals and the NDP are neck in neck in certain areas. That the gap between them is insignificant in polling numbers to the point where the vote can be split. This is simply not the case in this election, as the the NDP is firmly ahead and seems to be at the cost of the Liberals.

Quite simply, the high polling numbers of the NDP suggest that the potential for vote splitting is low. I have some Liberal friends, who have openly admitted that they have to vote NDP if they want a chance of defeating the Conservative candidate in their ridings. That is a conversation that is happening across Canada.

It's the reverse of the conversation in 2004; where NDP voters handed Paul Martin a minority government in the hopes of keeping Stephen Harper from power. In 2004, light NDP supporters voted Liberal; and now the chickens have come home to roost and light Liberals (and some staunch ones) are coming out to vote NDP in hopes of keeping Harper away from a majority.

So, why are pollsters still pushing the idea of a Conservative majority?

Well, the cynic in me would suggest that these are pollsters with a clear Conservative bias who want people to think that their vote is not going to matter. That even if we all come out and vote en masse for the NDP, the Conservatives are going to win and win a majority.

I assure you that is not the case. If Canadians turn out in heavy numbers, and given the high advance poll turn out it seems likely, and vote for change in governance there is no way the Harper Conservatives will be handed the majority they've coveted since the creation of Canada's Conservative Party.

Furthermore, this election is less about the future of our country and the future of our political leaders.

Everyone has speculated about the future of political leaders come the finish line of this election. Effectively, we've all agreed, that at the beginning of the campaign no party leader was safe. Harper had the best odds of remaining at the helm of his party, but only if the Conservatives increased their seat totals. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Ignatieff had the worst odds of remaining at the helm of the Liberal Party and still has overwhelming odds against him.

Duceppe was considered mostly safe, and Layton could have gone either way considering his health.

Now, the only safe leader is Layton.

Effectively, this election stands the odds of destroying three party leaders. Ignatieff was meant to rebuild the Liberal brand after the Dion years, and as it stands he has failed to do this. In fact, it looks as though the Liberals are going to lose seats and beat their former worst electoral showing in 2008.

As such, Ignatieff is going to have a tough time convincing his party that he can do better in the next election. He'll have to convince his party that he can undue the damage done by the years of Harper attack ads, and rebuild the party in the wake of the NDP rising, but odds are good that Ignatieff won't be able to convince his party to let him stay on.

At least, if he's not a major player in a coalition agreement, Ignatieff won't have a chance of remaining at the helm. Which is one good reason why the Liberals might be quick to support a minority NDP government...

That brings us to Gilles Duceppe. Duceppe, for one reason or another, is well regarded as a politician. Partially because he speaks his mind, regardless of how blunt it may be, and that he's been around the House of Commons a bit longer than any of the other leaders.

But the NDP surge threatens him the most. The Bloc has suffered at the hands of the NDP and looks to be on the verge of their worst electoral showing as well. There are even concerns that Duceppe himself could lose his seat to the NDP.

Duceppe, of course, stepped aside a few years ago (briefly) to make a run for PQ leadership. Of course, he stepped aside in favour of the current PQ leader Pauline Marois, and then quickly asked the Bloc to reverse his resignation and let him take his old job back. That soured a few people in the BQ over the leader, and no doubt a major loss for the Bloc will only further lead to a push for Duceppe's ousting.

Especially if Duceppe fails to hold on to his own riding. Effectively, if the Bloc is as destroyed as the poll numbers suggest, Duceppe will be out as leader and one of the few remaining Bloc MPs will have their chance to rebuild the party.

That brings us to Stephen Harper. Now, I have long since made the case as to why Stephen Harper's political future is fully banked on this election. But with the NDP surge, the case is only stronger.

If poll numbers are true, the Conservatives are actually going to lose seats instead of gain them in this election. And this is at a time when the NDP will be biting at the heels of the Conservatives. As such, that will make Harper the first Conservative (and Prime Minister) to lose ground to the NDP.

That's not a good legacy for Harper, and not the one he'd like to be remembered for, which likely means that there will be some push for Harper to step down. After all, this is attempt number four to win an election, and get a majority. Even with an incredibly weakened Liberal Party in 3 consecutive elections (and now a fourth), Harper has been unable to seal the deal with the electorate for his party.

And an election that sees the NDP gain ground, and the Conservatives lose some, is only going to reinforce the idea to his party that Harper is not the man who will lead them to their ultimate electoral victory. Even before the NDP surge, Harper's leadership was facing questions due to his inability to win a majority.

The NDP surge simply makes it a certainty that if Harper loses seats, and if he does form a minority which then loses power on a vote of non-confidence, Harper will lose more than his government but he'll lose his leadership.

And finally, Jack Layton. At the beginning of the campaign, with Layton's health, there were doubts over whether or not he could run a good campaign and whether or not he'd stay around as leader after election day. No one was more vocal about this then Conservative Senator Mike Duffy, who went as far as to suggest that it was backbencher NDPers who 'forced' Layton into voting against the budget. (Since Duffy believed Layton was ready to support the budget and concessions made in it.)

But, keep in mind, the government fell from contempt not the budget...So Duffy's statement really makes no sense when you keep reality in mind.

And yet, despite the concern, Layton has ran a great campaign. He's been energetic, enthusiastic, and entertaining. He's taken his cane, which some were worried could have been a symbol of his weakness, and turned it into a prop showing his strengths and his willingness to keep fighting the good fight regardless of whatever shape he might be in.

In fact, it's Layton's energy and persona which accounts for a lot of the NDP surge. It's partially people finally waking up and recognizing the various different things both the Liberals and Conservatives have done over the years and why they shouldn't form government, but it's also Layton's personality as well.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Layton has been the major winner of this campaign, and we could see a major shakeup tomorrow when the votes are totaled. This election is going to be a lot closer than Conservatives are prepared to admit, and that is why it is more important than ever that Canadians make an effort to get out to the polls and vote.

We don't need to listen to pollsters who tell us that we can't change our government. We don't need to listen to people who tell us that the NDP will never form government. We don't need to listen to the naysayers who tell us that voting NDP will result in vote splitting and electing a Harper Majority.

This campaign has proven that those statements don't apply anymore. That the electorate has already created change before election day. And that come election day, we have the power to change Ottawa for the better.

And now it's time for my personal appeal. I do not understand how anyone can support this Conservative Party. This is a party that has nothing but contempt for Canada, for our political process, and for our citizens.

This is a government that was found in contempt of Parliament. That means that this is a government which lied, or subverted, Parliament. That means this is a government that lied, and subverted, the Canadian people. This is not about political games, this is not about one party being better than another; but it is about a party that has lied directly to the Canadian people and has continued to lie to the Canadian people throughout the election campaign.

They have bemoaned the idea of a coalition government; calling it unconstitutional and tantamount to treason...When in reality coalition governments are constitutional and legal. Coalitions have existed within Canada, in both official and unofficial capacities and have had major impacts on Canadian society.

After all, it was the Liberal minority of Lester B. Pearson (supported by Tommy Douglas and the NDP) that worked together and created health care, a national pension plan, and our beloved Maple Leaf flag.

That alone should be the greatest example as to why cooperation within the House of Commons should be stressed. Great things have been accomplished when two parties have come together in the past, and great things can continue to be accomplished if two parties could come together in the future. And as it stands, the NDP is the only party committed to working with other parties instead of steamrolling an agenda over the others and daring them to defeat them and cause an election.

As such, Canadians deserve to elect a government that we can be proud of. A government that is actually working towards the best interests of Canadians, and that means working together with other parties to compromise and create the best plan for the future. And for Canadians to get that government, we must vote NDP and we must elect the NDP.

This is an election that will decide the fate of our country for years to come, but also the fate of three party leaders. And that alone should be enough to get Canadians, who cannot support these leaders and their tactics, to vote en masse to show their dissatisfaction with the way politics is currently being run in Ottawa.

We have a chance to change our political process for the better. To elect a government that we can trust. A government that will work with all parties, and all Canadians, and who will ensure that the average Canadian reaps benefits not just those who are already well off.

Change is coming, and almost everyone can see that now.

So, I will close with a simple plea:

Be the change that you want to see; go out and vote. It's our world, and our Canada, let's change it for the better.

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